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Fred Rutman
Naomi Hiltz Photography

Myles Shane Writes About Fred Rutman's New Book 'The Summer I died 20 Times'

By Myles Shane, posted here June 20, 2023

The Summer I died 20 Times written by Winnipeg born author Fred Rutman tells the heroic and heart wrenching journey of a man who’s continually stared death in the face and each time triumphed. ”In the summer of 2009, I was clinically dead twenty times that we know of – heart stopped, no breathing, ready for the toe tag. And then I wasn’t. Most times I died, I also collapsed, hit my head violently, and suffered a concussion. Concussions and oxygen deprivation are a pretty terrible
combination for sustaining brain functionality. Or staying alive. I experienced memory loss, balance issues, depth perception problems, as well as PTSD and Post-concussion Syndrome, to name just a few issues."

How do I know Fred Rutman? We have a mutual friend who works at one of Canada's most well known and respected news magazines. My producer friend told me Fred's story and it literally blew my mind, no pun intended. I immediately reached out to Fred and we quickly bonded. Ironically he was born in Winnipeg ten years before me. We both lived in Garden City, a five minute walk from each other.

As a boy, Fred attended Winnipeg's only Hebrew school at the time. “I went to Talmud Torah until grad six. He would later achieve his MBA from the University of Winnipeg and his CACE from the University of Manitoba. Unfortunately his memories of Hebrew school aren't very positive. Many of his teachers insisted all he needed to do was apply himself and he'd be fine. However, back in the 50's and 60's schools knew little about issues like ADHD and other disabilities that without
treatment could almost assure failing grades. "It also didn’t help that I was an overweight redhead and had way above average verbal skills. My ability to speak and tell stories and give presentations is one of my strengths. Those teachers though - literally screamed at me for wasting paper and not trying hard enough. Ah, a kid with special needs, parochial school and teachers trained in the military. A formula for soul crushing if I’ve ever seen one."

"I was tested and found to have a severe right brain hemisphere dysfunction. Or in layperson’s terms, a good chunk of the right side of my brain wasn’t working." So how does someone with a severe brain injury graduate high school and go onto to become a marketing and economics instructor?"

The book which is available in Canadian and American book stores and online is the true account of the medical traumas of Fred Rutman. From 2009 through 2018, Fred faced continuous life and death situations that rocked every aspect of his life. The Summer I Died Twenty Times is a medical trauma memoir unlike any other. In one package, Fred Rutman provides his overcoming adversity, resilience and beating the odds a reader expects. With a side of sarcasm and humour, he may not be the hero you expected but he may just might be the hero you need.

The one question I was hoping Fred could answer was what awaits us on the other side? I've always been fascinated by life after death and I surmised I'd finally found an expert. Fred articulated that he didn't head towards the warm light, he didn't see dead relatives or friends. He certainly didn't have a life review or meet anyone that the bible describes as Jesus, God, Budda or any supernatural omnipresent being responsible for everything and everyone. Instead Fred indicated he'd left his body but still felt attached to it by a cord. As his soul hovered over his lifeless body he describes an unexplainable force kept pushing his soul back inside his body. It was the most pain he'd ever felt. According to Fred everytime he dies he feels the same type of torture. In an excerpt from his book he describes the
feeling "I had a stroke at birth, which caused all sorts of brain trauma that no one caught. I have a heart condition called a severe full AV block. Why, they don’t know. What they do know is it prevents your heart’s electrical signals from telling the atria and ventricle to beat in synch. That is to say, my heart stops. Now I
am 100% fully dependent on a pacemaker to keep me alive. Kind of like Iron Man, for you pop culture peeps.I’ve had four pacemakers in 11 years. Why so many you ask? Because three of the four pacemakers, which rarely break or malfunction, have failed multiple times. Collectively, my heart has stopped 50 plus times."

Perhaps what's most perplexing about Fred's story is how someone can die at least 50 times and somewhere along the way a doctor wasn't able to stop the recurring deaths from continuing to happen.

Another wonderful excerpt from Fred's book is, "My first memory about what I now call Fred’s 2009 Summer of Death Tour (I think I might make T-shirts like bands do for concerts) is the first time I died. In reality, I didn’t know I had died until many weeks later, after about the 17th of 20 times it happened. At first, I didn’t realize how bad it was and didn’t take it overly seriously. Later, I clued in and realized something terribly wrong was happening to me. Even when I clued in, there was no
“Eureka” moment where all was revealed. As my brain continues to heal, more and more facts are revealed. There I was, marking Economics term papers in my home office. Many people would consider having to take Economics as some sort of a death sentence in itself. Grading some of those term papers often felt like that as well. Next thing I know, I was having the most brilliant fireworks display in my mind, with each explosion throwing multiple competing confusing thoughts and images at me for what seemed like 20 minutes. I actually felt the impacts of each explosion. And when I say felt, I mean felt like some unseen force was battering my body and beating the snot out of me. Upon reflection, fireworks is a much too pretty a description of how awful this was, as I later learned I was truly fighting to come back to life. I had never experienced anything so intense. It wouldn’t be the last time, either. I eventually dubbed the beginning of these events as brainquakes."

The book was released in March but it took Fred many years to write. At first he had troulbe remembering moments from his life because of the PTSD and Concussion syndrome, but a therapist asked to him consider journaling and initially the book was a mechanism for Fred to remember. Over time, Fred found the process was quite helpful and during Covid he had the opportunity to work on it in a more consistent manner.

Today, Fred lectures about his book and medical history at colleges and Jewish organizations throughout North America. In a month he'll be back in the hospital having another heart surgery. To buy the book please click here.

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